UDUPI: Toilet Ek Prem Katha, the Hindi film, addresses a real issue in rural India — the challenges of creating infrastructure for toilets and then persuading people to use them. Long before this film was thought of and even before Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his Clean India mission, an Anganwadi worker launched her own ‘Swachchta mission’ as far back as in the 1990s. Delphine D’Souza (55) conducted surveys for the construction of toilets in the village. There were 150 houses in Karamballi ward then. Of these, only 50 houses had toilets. With the firm conviction that Delphine had, she could convince owners of the remaining 100 houses to build toilets.
This Anganwadi worker has proven time and again that she goes that extra mile to help the beneficiaries under various schemes, literally. There were days when she had to walk 4 km every day as the Anganwadi she worked previously was in Perampalli ward.
Anganwadi is a type of rural mother and child care centre. Since they primarily focus on poor and malnourished groups, they provide supplementary nutrition to children below the age of six and nursing and pregnant women. They ensure that regular health and medical check-ups for women 15-49 years old take place and that all women and children have access to these check-ups. They work toward providing pre-school education.
Delphine who has been in service for 28 long years in an Anganwadi in Karamballi ward of Udupi city joined this profession as she was passionate about nurturing the kids. ‘’I never regretted that I worked for a paltry salary of `300 per month in 1988. Back then, there were 60 children in the Anganwadi. Initially I went through tough times to run the Anganwadi due to lack of infrastructure. Later donors helped us. Since then we have been able to provide the required facilities along with nutritious food to children here,” she says.
Some thought for food here. Delphine one day decided to grow a garden in the backyard of the Anganwadi. The fruits of her labour are there for everyone to see — she grows fruits like papaya and banana. She finds joy in giving away these fruits to the children in the Anganwadi.
She has also worked for the literacy mission and taught 20 illiterates in Karamballi area. Bharathi Shetty of Karamballi was taught by Delphine to read and write. After some years, Bharathi herself started teaching the elderly to read and write in her locality in Karamballi. “I was rolling beedis at home, but she made me realise my dream,” Bharathi says.
Delphine ensured that the government schemes reached the needy. “I ensured in getting Bhagyalakshmi Scheme for 21 children of BPL families,” she says. That is not all. She created awareness about maternity allowance, widow pension and schemes for specially challenged persons. She also has been participating in the Pulse Polio campaign for the last 20 years.
Delphine was also instrumental in forming women self-help groups in her ward through which many obtained loans and educated their kids. Radhika, one such beneficiary, educated her child through the loan obtained from one such self-help group. “Through the self-help group led by Delphine, I could easily educate my child,’’ Radhika adds.
Delphine’s selfless efforts were recognised finally. Her joy knew no bounds when she heard the news that she was selected for the National Anganwadi Workers’ Award – 2016-17 in August this year. The award comprised a cash prize of `25,000 and a citation. She was selected for her performance and based on the contribution she made in child care, pre-school education, nutrition and health education, community participation and innovation.
Infra Donations Pour In
When Delphine started to work, the Anganwadi didn’t boast of any infrastructure. But year by year, people started recognising her work and donated chairs, tables, water tank and other things to her Anganwadi wholeheartedly.
Delphine’s husband Salvador D’Souza is a security personnel in Kasturba Hospital, Manipal. Her elder son Don is a BBM graduate while younger son Stalin is pursuing his graduation.